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Utah Drought Update: how Park City can help

PARK CITY, Utah. –  Following our recent drought coverage and Governor Cox’s third executive order to combat Utah’s drought, emails have come in from residents detailing wasteful watering practices they’ve seen around town. As people become more mindful of their relationship with water, it’s important that residents understand how best to contribute towards water conservation.

Utah Reservoir water levels. Data current as of June 9, 2021.
Utah Reservoir water levels. Data current as of June 9, 2021.

Firstly, it’s important to understand what qualifies as a wasteful watering event. According to Kim Wells, Public Information Officer at the Utah Division of Water Resources, one of the main culprits of wasteful watering is when pavement gets watered, not plants. “It’s very important for people to make sure their sprinkler systems are functioning properly and pointed in the right direction,” she said. Other water-waste examples might include watering during the hottest parts of the day, watering on windy days, or watering more than the allotted number of days as suggested by the local municipality. For Park City and Summit County, that is two days per week. “This is not the year to have a really lush, green lawn,” says Wells. “It’s OK if the grass shows signs of stress. It’ll rebound when the conditions improve. Watering should be prioritized by species, with trees, shrubs and perennials coming first, and in that order.  It’s also beneficial to let lawns grow longer, which allows for roots to go deeper into the ground and for less evaporation in the soil.”

If someone witnesses a water-waste event, document it with a photo, if possible. If it falls within city limits, then send the picture to the Park City Municipal Corporation at water@parkcity.org, or call the number 435.615.5335 and report it over the phone.

If the incident takes place outside of city limits, say in a neighborhood where you know the water company is Summit Water Distribution Company, then the best option would be to document the incident and contact the company directly at summitwatre@swdc.us or 435.649.7324. The same process would apply to the other largest water provider in Summit County, Mountain Regional Water District. Their email address is cs@mtregional.org and their phone number is 435.645.2555.

There is also the option to utilize the Utah Division of Water Resource’s “Hall of Fame / Shame”, which allows Utah residents to report an incident that will then be passed onto the appropriate water provider. The webpage has already seen an explosion of traffic since this spring, with over 1,200 reports submitted from May through June 9th. For perspective, the page received only 167 reports in all of 2020.

With that said, the enforcement against wasteful water practices remains unclear. Mike Folkman, Assistant Regional Manager of Summit Water Distribution Company said “We’re kind of stuck as far as enforcement. We reach out to that person or business and ask them to stop, but we haven’t got to the point where we are fining people yet. But we really appreciate people reaching out to us with information. We’re seeing the drought in our wells in a way we haven’t really seen it in the past.”

Rockport Reservoir in June 2021.
Rockport Reservoir in June 2021. Photo: Weber Basin Water Conservancy District

According to Scott Morrison, General Manager of Mountain Regional Water District, they too are figuring out how to navigate this space. “We have a ‘wasting of water’ provision in our rules and regulations with a fee structure in place. The fee is determined on whether it is the first offense and on the magnitude of the offense itself.” He went on to say, “In a lot of ways, this is new territory for all providers in Utah. We’re working diligently to get new programs together as far as keeping up with these difficult conditions, but at this point it’s best for our customers to just call or email us.”

With 21 of the state’s 42 largest reservoirs currently below 55 percent capacity, it’s safe to assume that Utahns haven’t received their last executive order regarding the drought. The Division of Water Resources and the Park City area water providers ask that residents take proactive steps towards water conservation in their homes and on their properties.

For more conservation ideas, visit slowtheflow.org

Rockport Reservoir in June 2021.
Rockport Reservoir in June 2021. Photo: Weber Basin Water Conservancy District

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